There’s a word to describe the sort of off-beat, kitschy way things are in the Keys. Keysie, as in, “That concrete manatee statue with the mailbox in its belly really gives a keysie look to that trailer park.” Things are just different here in the Conch Republic.
After Skimmer departed, we stayed in Largo another three days. One of our first stops was the bar at the hotel near where Madge was anchored. It was an outdoor tiki bar with wildlife of both the human and non-human kind. The bartender was a crusty old cruiser who lived aboard his boat in the anchorage with his parrot, which went to work with him daily. Squirrels (did you know I hate squirrels?) roamed the bar begging for peanuts. Ibises pecked around your feet looking for crumbs or bugs on the floor or in the flowerbeds. They were oblivious to the humans. Iguanas sunned themselves in every warm patch of light. Toto, we aren’t in Kansas anymore.
Another uniquely Keysie thing is the fact that there’s basically only one road in the Keys – US 1. It’s the string that holds the pearls together. There are few traffic signals on US 1, so if you need to get from one side to the other, you get to play a real-life, high-speed version of Frogger with the traffic. Madge was anchored on the “Bayside,” meaning the side of the islands that faces Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Some of the places we needed to go were on the “Oceanside,” meaning the side that faced the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Fortunately, there was a median in US 1 in Key Largo, so we only had to cross two lanes at a time. As outsiders, we were timid crossing the traffic. The Conchs (as the natives are called), on the other hand, jump out into traffic in cars, on bicycles, or on foot, with suicidal abandon. Otherwise, they might have to wait a long time. We had all the time in the world to wait.
The picture above shows the wide walkway that parallels the highway. Even though there’s a bike lane on the highway, almost all non-motorized traffic uses the walkway. We had to dodge some bicycles, but I don’t blame them for staying as far away as possible from the motorized vehicles. Suzy and I used that walkway a lot. The marine store was about a mile and a half northeast of our anchorage on the Bayside. The grocery store was about a half mile southwest on the Oceanside. These two types of stores typify our stopping places. Suzy claims we’re only traveling from one West Marine to the next along our route. That’s true. I can’t think of any place we’ve gone ashore that we haven’t gone to West Marine to buy something. In Largo, I was looking for charts to take us up the west coast of Florida to Ft. Myers. I found some, but they weren’t that useful. Fortunately, Madge’s electronic charts are very good, but I like to have “real” charts in the cockpit with me. So I bought the charts. At least they were better than the cruising guide I had bought in Marathon on the way back from Key West. That thing, I have sadly learned, is poor.
Hey, at least it’s sunny and warm and the water is clear. So we took the dinghy and toured the mangroves along the shoreline of Tarpon Basin. A great way to spend an afternoon.